When Rolling Stone broke the story about a U.S. Army general in Afghanistan deploying his psychological warfare specialists to brainwash visiting members of congress, there was a good deal of reference made on TV news shows to The Manchurian Candidate.
Anyone old enough to remember when the Chinese were our sworn enemies rather than our bankers recalls the general creepiness we all felt about the secretive Middle Kingdom. When the novel and movie came out that suggested the Chinese practiced mind control, it struck a paranoid nerve.
Whether or not the Army really tried to persuade pols like Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain to send in more troops (as if the latter needed persuading), any revulsion and outrage we feel is due to the fact that they may have been subjected to nefarious head games as part of the process.
In fact, just about all of our politicians are in thrall to outside parties whose interests often do not coincide with those of the American people; for us, the difference appears to lie in the methodology of the manipulation.
As long as there is money involved in “owning” a member of congress, it’s a legitimate transaction. The congressman or senator is free to exercise his or her free will in accepting the money and screwing the public. Evidently, the people are not surprised or offended by this. Rather than outrage, they greet the news with a shrug.
This is the only logical conclusion one can come to, because otherwise these members of congress wouldn’t keep getting reelected.
But when money isn’t part of the equation, as in the Army case, it gives us the willies. It suggests that our elected representatives are blindly responding to someone’s Pavlovian bell.
I know there’s a difference between the two methods in terms of effect. I just can’t figure out what it is.